You might think with a name like The Apocalypse of Darkness you’d be served up a screamingly funny horror flick send up, but creator/director Emanuel Wazar is deadly serious. Apocalypse is Wazar’s homage to “the poetic genius” of Clark Ashton Smith of the modern cosmic horror genre. The show feels as old as pre-Aeschylus with solo performers intoning reams of poetry, drunk with words like “anodyne” and dense clusters of images.
It also feels futuristic in its experiment with dizzying footage projected behind and often on the bodies, simulating spinning through space at light speed, gray waves crashing on a dead world, and a giant worm.
Taking in the work in the frigid bowels of the MLK Library, I was at first fascinated by the vision of Wazar, putting his passion out there so fully and directing his ensemble of seven with such a clear if eccentric purpose. Perhaps I was seeing something as close as I would ever get to a full version of Constantine’s own apocalyptic playwriting experiment in Chekhov’s The Seagull. The actors moved me, (as Nina in The Seagull is meant to move audiences,) getting their mouths around the confounding words and breathing through torturous lines as long as hotel corridors, holding onto vowels, as if in perpetual slow motion.
The focus and commitment of this team to giving the work its due is what Fringe is all about. For several of them this was their first time on stage. I was touched by the performers’ courage and their willingness to put themselves out in the most challenging of pieces.
Incantation. Intoning. Words as mesmerizing sound. Words as images. Relentless. It grew monotonous.
The Apocalypse of Darkness
Written by Emanuel Wazar
Details and tickets
Wazar, as a recorded stage presence, played the worm. When I heard his voice, I got some sense of what he was driving at because his voice had the hypnotic effect of Albert Finney’s voice as the grand actor-manager in the original film of The Dresser. (That kind of voice takes years of training and cultivating a music sensibility.)
But there was little to no there there. By that I mean character interaction and dramatic conflict that is at the heart of theatre. There was a lovely moment where Clifford Cartel as The Prophet, now blind, and Jessica Santiago as The Slave sit together on the edge of the stage. Both are afraid and left alone in the desolated world and tell their stories to each other. They both have actions to play, she to help him physically and he to comfort her with our world destroyed. We needed more of such moments.
The physical images of the actors with the screen images were what I come away with from the work. Solia Bickersteth as The Goddess stood masked and all-powerful, a strong stage presence indeed, and the entire surface of her skin seems imprinted as if with henna by the video stars shooting through her. Ashley Matheus as The Attendant has a most spectral and mysterious quality on stage and serves the show well by her physical presence. Brookes Giller as The King musters an epic style physically, and Kate McGowan is able to create a super-woman figure as The Soldier.
Niko convinced me of an inner ferocity as The Guardian. Santiago’s emotional commitment carries throughout the show, and her character carries the vulnerability for the whole human race. Cartel was on fire as like an old Testament Prophet, flinty and burning within, daring us to turn away from this, at our peril.
I wish there had been more interaction.
The show’s relevant theme of man’s destruction of earth is an important one. There are some strands here quite promising, particularly if set to music by a composer who could bring more variety and changes in pitch and tempi. A song cycle perhaps? As it is, The Apocalypse hasn’t found its form yet and, as the world grinds to darkness, we are almost grateful.
The Apocalypse of Darkness. Written, produced and directed by Emanuel Wazar. Featuring Solia Bickersteth, Ashley Matheus, Niko, Clifford Cartel, Brookes Giller, Jessica Santiago, and Kate McGowan. Reviewed by Susan Galbraith.